Forget Route 66 – America’s True Mother Road Starts in Michigan, and it’s US 41
Route 66 is glamorized as the Mother Road. Chicago to Los Angeles. Through miles and miles of desert and nothing. Perhaps historic US 66 isn't America's true Mother Road. Perhaps that honor should belong to a road that starts in Northern Michigan, US 41.
US Route 41 travels 2000 miles from near Copper Harbor in Michigan to downtown Miami, Florida.
Think you can find that kind of Americana on old Route 66 anymore?
While on that north-south sojourn across America, it passes through some of the nation's most iconic cities - Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta and Tampa.
Take a virtual trip along America's true Mother Road, US 41.
US 41 in Michigan
The mighty 41 begins at a turnaround near Copper Harbor with a sign from the Michigan Department of Transportation that relays some of the history of the Native American foot paths that became some of Michigan's main traffic arteries.
Early Indian footpaths became the trails for explorers, missionaries and fur traders who came to carve out homes in Michigan's wilderness. The early settlers began to widen and improve these trails, which became the majority of Michigan's primary road system.
South of Copper Harbor, the farthest point in America from any interstate highway, US 41 crosses the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock. The historic crossing, which dates back to an 1875 wooden swing bridge is the only way way into and out of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
This video shows the beginning/end of US 41 past Copper Harbor.
US 41 in Wisconsin
US 41 crosses the Menominee River from Michigan into Wisconsin and passes through both Green Bay and Milwaukee and by each of those city's iconic stadiums, Lambau Field and Miller Park.
Wisconsin loses points when it comes to US 41 prestige, as they created an Interstate 41 to run alongside US 41, as if US 41 wasn't good enough.
US 41 in Illinois
"Lakeshore Drive the road is called and you can take it up or down." The lyrics from the song by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah. US 41 makes up a good portion of Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. That road served as the starting point for that other Mother Road US 66.
US 41 has the least amount of mileage in Illinois than any other state it passes through, but perhaps the most iconic.
US 41 in Indiana
US 41 enters the Hoosier state from Chicago at Hammond and Indianapolis Boulevard. Hammond the largest city US 41 will pass through until it hits Evansville in southern Indiana.
Along the route of US 41 is Vincinnes and a monument that looks like it belongs in Washington, DC and not southern Indiana at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park.
US 41 in Kentucky
An interesting thing about US 41 in Kentucky is right at the Indiana border. US 41 travels along the only stretch of land where Kentucky and Indiana touch. The states are separated by the Ohio River - and right at the river. Rather than have the state line at the mid-point of the river, a federal government ruling that dates back to 1792 gives the entire river to Kentucky so Indiana (and Ohio and Illinois) end right at the river and Kentucky takes over. Except for this one spot south of Evansville, caused by the 1812 New Madrid Earthquake which shifted the river and gave us the unusual geographic oddity crossed by US 41.
US 41 in Tennessee
In Tennessee US 41 passes through Nashville, arcs around the state capitol and parallels Interstate 24 as the old Dixie Highway through the Cumberland Plateau.
Between Chattanooga and East Ridge, just north of the Georiga line, US 41 passes through a rarity for the highway, a tunnel, under Missionary Ridge.
US 41 in Georgia
US 41 has lost a bit of its prestige in Georgia, as the route very closely follows Interstate 75 and the vast majority of traffic passing though the Peach State to Florida is on the interstate. However US 41 does pass through the heart of Atlanta, and is home to one of the state's most iconic restaurants - a Kentucky Fried Chicken location in Marietta known as the Big Chicken. The building features a beak that opens and closes and an eye that spins. Think you can find that kind of Americana on old US 66 anymore?
US 41 in Florida
After more than 1500 miles traveled from the tippy-top of Michigan in Copper Harbor, US 41 enters Florida at Jennings. Similar to US 41 in Georgia, the highway has been superseded by Interstate 75. The most iconic stretch of US 41 is the final 275 miles from Tampa to Miami, known as the Tamiami Trail. The road is one of two to cross the Everglades, and a southern alternate to Alligator Alley (I-75).
In Maimi, US 41 is Calle Ocho, or 8th Street, the heart of the city's Little Havana district. US 41 ends one block from the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay at Bricknell Avenue south of downtown Miami.